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Cat’s Cradle: Like my predecessors, I’ll be brief

I have written 100 articles for The Post. I have reached my own personal goal of writing. It only took me about 50 articles to find my voice, and the only reason I had faith in sharing them was the editors who defined my work. 

The word I feel best encapsulates how I feel sharing my work is verklempt, or overcome and overwhelmed. My mood is a product of high expectations of myself that is challenged by positive feedback from readers. People’s words have left me bleary eyed and overjoyed. 

For everyone who has recommended ideas or premises for articles that I never wrote, I am sorry I never realized them, and hopefully one day you’ll find the time to write them. This is for fans of games, Shakespeare and “Phantom of the Opera.” Instead, my last story is one of my favorite Athens’s experiences.  

I recently took a walk along The Ridges. Dressed a little like Lee Van Cleef in my wide brim hat and flannel, I felt ready to revisit a bench on a ridgetop near the Dairy Barn. The bench commemorates the life of Vincent Patacca Riley, a fellow Athenian who passed on too young. I had came across the bench during a hike nearly a decade before, and read the following quote:

“So long and thanks for all the fish,” —Douglas Adams

The quote itself has become a modern idiom for shutting down business or retiring from a position, inspired by the dolphins in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” who broadcast thanks to all humanity before leaving Earth. 

Before I knew the significance of this quote, I was struck by the absurdity of it. It was a quote from an author I didn’t know, that was funny, hopeful and well-worded, a goodbye that became my entry into Douglas Adams.  

Since then, few books have been recommended to me as much as Douglas Adams. Between English majors, book clerks, engineers, life-safety technicians, strangers on elevators, librarians and coworkers each recommending the book in some county lobby for my reading time. 

My trepidation to start the book made me push off my reading, until a slow summer job saw me walking around Athens’ campus as both a team leader and student worker. I carried a collector’s edition of the book in my bookbag to read on lunch breaks. 

The book struck me as melodramatic, sardonic and lacking any semblance of jokes. I attempted to rant about the book to a friend, the humor of the scenes only coming out when spoken. Then, the long-winded recommendations, the reciting of scenes and quoting lines became clear to me. That the joy of the book didn’t come from reading it but sharing it. 

Returning to see the bench, reading the name of Vincent and seeing the quote that sent me into an Adams spiral has brought me full circle. I understood the recommendations to bond. It was the opening of interests, to discuss and grow as a community. 

For Athens, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” represents only one facet of the little bubble we experience. For all of us, college is a new and daunting experience, and there is always something that binds us as creators, readers and educators. 

It is hard to be open with others, but sometimes there is that rare book, film, food, game, show etc. that we can relate to, that we speak through, and it’s in these small moments that we share that we truly see what makes life so special. 

So it goes, “So long and thanks for all the fish.”  

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

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